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Case C-390/99

Canal Satlite Digital SL v Administracin General del Estado

(Reference for a preliminary ruling from the Tribunal Supremo (Spain)) (Articles 30 and 59 of the EC Treaty (now, after amendment, Articles 28 EC and 49 EC) Directive 95/47/EC National legislation requiring operators of conditional-access television services to register in a national register created for that purpose, indicating the characteristics of the technical equipment they use, and subsequently to obtain administrative certification thereof Directive 83/189/EEC Meaning of 'technical regulation')

Opinion of Advocate General Stix-Hackl delivered on 8 March 2001 . . . Judgment of the Court, 22 January 2002

I-611 I - 635

Summary of the Judgment

1. Preliminary rulings Jurisdiction of the Court Limits Manifestly irrelevant questions and questions regarding hypothetical problems in a context which precludes any useful answer Questions not related to the purpose of the main proceedings (Art. 234 EC) I-607


2. Approximation of laws Transmission of television signals Directive 95/47 Ability of the Member States to establish prior authorisation procedures Conditions for exercise (Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council 95/47) 3. Free movement of goods Freedom to provide services Restrictions National legislation on digital television Activities of the operators of conditional-access services and the marketing of their products made subject to prior authorisation justification Conditions Criteria for assessment (EC Treaty, Arts 30 and 59 (now, after amendment, Arts 28 EC and 49 EC)) 4. Approximation of laws Procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations Technical regulations within the meaning of Directive 83/189 Meaning National legislation on digital television requiring operators of conditional-access services to enter information in a register and to obtain prior certification for their products Whether included Obligation of Member States to communicate the draft of such a technical regulation to the Commission Scope (Council Directive 83/189, Art. 1, points 8, 9 and 10)

1. In the context of the cooperation between the Court of Justice and the national courts established by Article 234 EC, it is solely for the national court before which the dispute has been brought, and which must assume responsibility for the subsequent judicial decision, to determine in the light of the particular circumstances of the case both the need for a preliminary ruling in order to enable it to deliver judgment and the relevance of the questions which it submits to the Court. Consequently, where the questions submitted by the national court concern the interpretation of Community law, the Court of Justice is, in principle, bound to give a ruling.

in which the case was referred to it by the national court, in order to assess whether it has jurisdiction. The Court may refuse to rule on a question referred for a preliminary ruling by a national court only where it is quite obvious that the interpretation of Community law that is sought bears no relation to the actual facts of the main action or its purpose, where the problem is hypothetical, or where the Court does not have before it the factual or legal material necessary to give a useful answer to the questions submitted to it.

In exceptional circumstances, however, the Court can examine the conditions I-608

(see paras 18-19)


2. Although Directive 95/47, on the use of standards for the transmission of television signals, does not contain any provisions concerning detailed administrative rules for implementing Member States' obligations under that directive, that finding does not justify the conclusion that the Member States may not establish a prior authorisation procedure consisting of compulsory entry in a register together with the requirement of a prior technical report drawn up by the national authorities. However, where they establish such an administrative procedure, Member States must at all times comply with the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Treaty.

be appropriate to ensure achievement of the aim pursued and not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve it.

In determining whether such national legislation complies with the principle of proportionality, account must be taken of the following considerations in particular:

(see paras 27-28)

3. National legislation which makes the marketing of apparatus, equipment, decoders or digital transmission and reception systems for television signals by satellite and the provision of related services by operators of conditionalaccess services subject to a prior authorisation procedure restricts both the free movement of goods and the freedom to provide services. Therefore, in order to be justified with regard to those fundamental freedoms, such legislation must pursue a public-interest objective recognised by Community law and comply with the principle of proportionality; that is to say, it must

for a prior administrative authorisation scheme to be justified even though it derogates from those fundamental freedoms, it must, in any event, be based on objective, non-discriminatory criteria which are known in advance, in such a way as to circumscribe the exercise of the national authorities' discretion, so that it is not used arbitrarily;

a measure introduced by a Member State cannot be regarded as necessary to achieve the aim pursued if it essentially duplicates controls which have already been carried out in the context of other procedures, either in the same State or in another Member State; I-609


a prior authorisation procedure will be necessary only where subsequent control must be regarded as being too late to be genuinely effective and to enable it to achieve the aim pursued;

register and to obtain prior certification for those products before being able to market them constitutes a 'technical regulation' within the meaning of Article 1, point 9, of Directive 83/189, laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations, as amended and updated by Directive 94/10.

a prior authorisation procedure does not comply with the fundamental principles of the free movement of goods and the freedom to provide services if, on account of its duration and the disproportionate costs to which it gives rise, it is such as to deter the operators concerned from pursuing their business plan.

(see para. 43, and operative part 1-2)

4. National legislation which requires operators of conditional-access services to enter the equipment, decoders or systems for the digital transmission and reception of television signals by satellite which they propose to market in a

Concerning the obligation under Article 8 of the directive to communicate the draft of such a technical regulation to the Commission, that obligation applies to the said national legislation in so far as the latter establishes a system of prior administrative authorisation, and cannot therefore be regarded as legislation, referred to in the exemption laid down by Article 10, whereby the Member State complies with a binding Community measure resulting in the adoption of technical specifications.

(see paras 48-50, and operative part 3)